Saturday, October 20, 2007

third week running ...

... well we had to go back didn't we? Two frosts on the bounce though suggested any half sensible southern-European bird would be well on its way south by now.

Pitsford, first thing, was shrouded in a deep fog, with visibility down to just a few metres. We walked up the Scaldwell Bay and checked out the mud spit from the hides, but no waders, in fact we didn't see a single wader all day (Lapwings don't count!). The spit was dominated by Canada Geese, Cormorants and Black-headed Gulls, with the odd Wigeon completing the complement.

As a fortnight ago, the most commonly heard land birds were the flocks of tits, together with the singing Robins. We encountered a number of mixed flocks but some more homogeneous groups, including a small group of Willow Tits, this one extracting a seed from a cone (click the picture and you'll see what I mean):

The West Hide, approaching halfway around and 1.6 miles before the Walgrave Hide (assuming a clockwise walk) is the perfect spot for a tea break. In the early morning light, the steam from the tea appeared as waves of individual particles, which was something I've not seen before. In the bushes to the left of the hide a flock of Long-tailed Tits were foraging, which included frequent passage in front of the hide to the trees on the right hand side. In amongst these tits though, a lone, ringed Chiffchaff stood out (again worth a click):

As we drank our tea there was quite a commotion as a group of Wigeon chased each other around the (Walgrave) Bay. We couldn't see what they were, as they landed then took off again on the far-side, then headed out of view, but the fun (and noise) continued; shortly after they came in to land in front of the hide:

At least twice on the way around the nature reserve we passed through small flocks of Goldcrests, a tiny bird exhibiting the same behaviour as the Firecrests we'd seen recently in Madeira, a very busy insect-hunt along small branches in their chosen tree. You can tell by the size of the sloe berries in the picture just how small these birds are. This Goldcrest is showing its characteristic head-stripe:

This shot, taken later, shows another bird in profile:

All around the reserve we encountered Redwings, many more than last week, and unless we kept flushing the same groups around, the most we've seen at Pitsford before. Virtually every cluster of 'berry' trees and bushes contained them:

Called Redwings, spookily, because of the red markings along the wing edge. Entering the last hide, clockwise, on the reserve we flushed out a Wren, which had being doing something with or to the nest set just above the entrance. There were few birds in the Holcot arm of the reservoir, a few Great-crested Grebes, Wigeon, Pochard, Coot, Gadwalls, etc. I snapped this Black-headed Gull, showing its winter plumage as it landed on the water (it almost looks like it's dancing):

Having completed the walk around the nature reserve and along the causeway we dropped off our coats and collected our lunch and set off round the public section. There are many fewer birds on this side, due both to the substantially reduced habitat and the increased human activity, however the south side has seen a number of the less common birds over recent years. Our walk didn't reveal much, we spotted this Great Spotted Woodpecker (the second of the day) in the penultimate wooded copse on the anti-clockwise walk:

Finally a Starling, perched atop a tree as we approached the causeways for the second time, showing its colours really well. The double-loop, figure of eight walk is approximately fifteen miles all told and was another great experience of Pitsford, but we've decided weather and studies permitting, to try out Salcey Forest next weekend:

When we got back and checked out Mike Alibone's rare bird web page ( there was a report of six Bewick Swans landing in the Scaldwell Bay that morning, four of which took off and landed in Walgrave Bay. Was it these four swans we saw landing, with the short necks, long looking beaks and general colouring?

Maybe we'll have to go back to Pitsford next week and have another look...?

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